In most cases, the Arkansas probate process should take less than a year to complete. However, how long the case actually takes depends on many different factors and the specifics of that estate.
Generally speaking, we tell our clients that about the fastest that we can complete a probate case is approximately 7-8 months. This would be a straightforward, uncontested estate plan that goes through a probate hearing in a timely manner.
What Happens After Filing with the Probate Court?
This is primarily because after filing the initial paperwork with the Court, we are required to publish a notice in the local newspaper directing any unknown creditors of remaining property to come forward and file their claims.
This “claims period” last for six (6) months from the date of the first publication of the notice ion the newspaper and there are no exceptions to this wait period.
Even if you know there are no creditors, we still have to wait.
After that six (6) months is up and any pending claims are paid, then we can move forward with making final distributions and fully closing the loved one’s estate. In some cases, the probate estate could be open for years.
What Factors Could Make the Probate Process Longer?
Some factors that can extend the length of a petition for probate, are:
(1) when there is any sort of contest to the validity of the will or other estate planning documents or asset transfers.
(2) if there is a large estate with complex assets such as business, real estate, other property or other less common assets.
(3) if the estate is large enough that is taxable and therefore the estate taxes have to be filed with the IRS.
(4) any time the heirs and distributes do not all agree and sign waivers of notice which requires more procedures to be followed and for hearings to be had on certain issues.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list and of course there are other circumstances that might arise to drag out the process.
One big thing to consider is how competent and knowledgeable is your attorney? We often see cases taking way longer than necessary just because the attorney on the case is not doing things timely or efficiently.
How Does a Lawyer Help as a Personal Representative in Probate Court?
A lawyer with a good plan and system can save you a ton of time and possibly cost in the long run by acting as a personal representative on your behalf and having a vast understanding of probate laws and knowing how to properly petition for probate.
One exception to the full probate court process is if the estate qualifies as a “small estate.” In that circumstance, the estate could be closed almost immediately or at least within approximately three (3) months.
Ultimately, the probate process is simply going to take as long as is necessary to get everything in order, legally and appropriately, depending on the specific assets and circumstances surrounding the estate and any other interested party or heirs.
Can I Do Anything During the Probate Process?
While the process can be long, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the assets are fully tied up or that you can’t begin to sell or handle certain things.
The best way to fully understand the process and timing is to talk with a knowledgeable probate attorney that can give you specific advice based on your situation and unique concerns.